I like to show how the books we study in school have left a lasting legacy to contemporary society. If nothing else, when students complain how boring and outdated the books are, I can either try to elicit some open mindedness by showing them that P. Diddy consciously imitates The Great Gatsby, or I can at least argue that their recalcitrance is in opposition to the popular culture with which they’re enthralled.
This year has been an especially good one for that. I started the year off with The Scarlet Letter, just as a teen comedy loosely based on it, Easy A, hit theaters. When we read Moby Dick, I was able to show them the recent Blackberry ad about the novel (many students told me that the ad made much more sense afterwards!). We finished Huckleberry Finn last month and now, as we review the semester, there’s a national controversy brewing about a new, censored version of the text.
Near the end of this year, when I try to wrestle some Faulkner into my students, I’ll be able to tell them that Hollywood hunk James Franco is directing a new film of Faulkner’s novel, As I Lay Dying.
Now if only I could find a more recent reference for Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea than a second season episode of The Simpsons…